South African Medical Research Council and PATH launch new Global Health Innovation Accelerator


Innovative partnership will drive development of devices and diagnostics to improve maternal, neonatal, and child health in South Africa and beyond.

Contacts: Kate Davidson, PATH, 082 774 0738,; Keletso Ratsela, SAMRC, 082 804 8883,

Cape Town, South Africa, August 8, 2014—The new South Africa-based Global Health Innovation Accelerator (GHIA) launching today will speed the development and introduction of sustainable, high-impact health technologies that can save the lives of vulnerable women and children in South Africa and beyond.

The GHIA is an innovation center led by the Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) unit at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and PATH, an international nonprofit organization. SHIP was formed as a joint venture between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and SAMRC in 2013.

The GHIA aims to fast-track the most promising technologies to address the health needs of low-resource communities. It will connect the scientific and technical expertise, funding, and networks of global partners with local scientists and innovators to accelerate product development and introduction. The partnership will initially focus on advancing medical devices, diagnostics, and health tools for the most vulnerable women and children.

“We are excited by the prospects that the partnership between the SAMRC (SHIP) and PATH through the Global Health Innovation Accelerator bring to the South African health research and innovation landscape, particularly in relation to maternal and child health,” said Director-General, Department of Science and Technology, Dr Phil Mjwara.

“We are confident that the GHIA would enable us to tap into PATH’s extensive experience in managing the challenges that prevent technologies from reaching global markets, and thus enable health innovations to reach people who need them the most, especially women and children,” Mjwara said.

South Africa faces high rates of maternal and child mortality as well as HIV, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases. The National Department of Health’s strategic plan calls for reducing preventable child deaths and ensuring all mothers have access to antenatal, birth, and postpartum care.

The GHIA will support those goals by catalyzing investment in the best products and ensuring they reach the most vulnerable local communities, as well as people in low-resource settings across the continent and around the globe.

“We desperately need to find innovative solutions that will save the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Interventions that prevent unnecessary stillbirths and neonatal deaths are critical as we endeavour to drive down mortality in children in Africa,” said Glenda Gray, president of the SAMRC. “The SAMRC is deeply committed to this bold step to help find medical solutions that are game-changing. This partnership between SHIP, DST, and PATH demonstrates our commitment to finding new ways of solving old problems.”

“The GHIA promotes a new paradigm for global health: tapping innovation wherever it is found to accelerate health solutions,” said Dr. Ayo Ajayi, PATH’s vice president of International Development.

“What makes the GHIA unique is its focus on strengthening homegrown innovation—whether from South Africa or elsewhere—to quickly bring new products to market. It combines South Africa’s innovation, expertise, and research capacity with PATH’s nearly 40 years of experience in breaking through barriers that can prevent lifesaving technologies from reaching those who need them,” Ajayi said.

Since 2011, PATH has committed US$3.7 million to advance health technologies in South Africa, including product introduction, commercialization, and data-gathering activities—investments that have helped pave the way for the GHIA’s launch.

SHIP has established itself as a key enabler in the South African bio-economy through funding for early-stage product development, committing more than US$30 million to a number of product-driven programs carried out in South Africa.

Innovative tools, technologies, and approaches are transforming global efforts to improve the lives of women and children, driving significant reductions in maternal and child mortality. Still, an estimated 6.3 million children died before their fifth birthdays in 2013, and 293,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes, most of which were preventable.  To build the pipeline of innovative health tools, the GHIA aims to attract new investments from donors, public- and private-sector investors, and others, and to leverage the capacity and technical expertise of new partners to drive transformative technologies from concept to widespread use.